1630 Richard Cooke, taylor and Simon Rodgers, shoomaker ‘were desired to set the psalmes upon Saboth and Lecture Days.’
1640 Bay Psalm Book, Preface by John Cotton
‘The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully translated into English Metre.’ First book published in the New World. ‘We have many very skilled in music.’
1639 Joan Hogg(e)
Richard Hogge, a taylor and Joan his wife [admitted to the Church.]
1642 John Spurre
John Spoure [Spurre] a husbandman & Elizabeth his wife [admitted to the Church.]
1651 John Spurre
‘John Spurre [Spoure] for his insolent bearing witnes against Baptism and singing and the church covenant as noe ordinances of god was with the Consent of the church admonished the 1st day of the 4th moneth 1651.’ ‘On the 13th Day of the 5th Moneth 1651: Our brother John Spurre was in the publique Congregation with the Consent of the church by silence in the Name of the Lord excommunicated from the fellowship of the church; for his with Drawinge communion from the church at the Lords table and he professed he could hold noe more communion with the church as it stood and also questioned baptisme, singing of psalmes and church covenant as being but humaine Inventions and thereby charged the church as supersticious idoliters and our officers as hipocrits and the ordinances of christ as humaine Inventions by the scriptures he brought as in the 17 of Acts 16, etc.’
[Acts 17: 16 — ‘Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.’ Matthew 15: 7-9 — ‘This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.’]
1657 Sister Hogg(e)
‘Our Sister [Joan] Hogg[e] for her disorderly singing and her idleness and for saying shee is Commanded of Christ so to doe, shee was admonished with the consent of the Church, 1st day of the 4th moneth 1657.’ ‘Our Sister Hogg[e] for her refusing to labor and saing she is commanded of god soe to doe and for her disturbing the Congregation by her disorderly singing [and] with refusing to hear the counsel of Christ given her in the church was in the Name of the Lord Jesus, with the Consent of the Church excommunicate on the 12th day of the 5th moneth 1657.’
1718 Psalterium Americanum
Cotton Mather’s translation of the Psalms in a unique metrical setting.
1723 Counseling psalm singers in Braintree
‘A Council of Churches [including Messengers — laymen — from First Church] was held at the South Part of Brantry [Braintree], to regulate the Disorders occasion’d by regular Singing in that Place, Mr. Niles the Minister having suspended Seven or Eight [Members] of the Church for persisting in their Singing [the psalms] by Rule, contrary (as he apprehended) to the Result of a former Council; but by this
Council the suspended Brethren are restor’d to Communion, their Suspension declar’d unjust, and the Congregation Order’d to sing by Rule and by Rote alternately, for the Satisfaction of both Parties.’ [Rule = reading by note; Rote = singing by ear. Many congregations at this time had difficulties deciding between the ‘Regular — New — Way’ and the ‘Usual — Old — Way.’]
1758 Rectifying our Singing
‘It being suggested, that a Number of the Brethren, who were skilful Singers, sitting together in some convenient place, would greatly tend to rectify our Singing on the Lord’s day, and render that part of Divine Worship more agreeable, it was Voted that the Committee appoint the Persons and Place.’
1761 The Spirit of Singing
‘Voted that the large committee be desired to think of Some method to encourage and revive the Spirit of Singing in this Church.’
1761 A New Version of the Psalms
‘...5ly [fifthly] Voted That we apprehend it necessary to encourage and revive the Spirit of Singing in this Church, that a New Version of the Psalms [Tate & Brady, 1761 ‘New Version’]* be introduced among us, and that a Number of the best Singers among us be desired to sett together in some Convenient Place in the Meeting House, and also that reading the Psalm on the Sabbath Day should be [sung].’ [*'...with a supplement of Watts.']
‘Voted to Accept the Report of the Committee that a new version of the Psalms be introduced into this Church. Voted that a number of the best Singers among us be desired to sit together in some convenient place in the Meeting House. Voted that reading the Psalms on the Sabbath day should be omitted. Voted that a Committee be raised to conferr and advise with our Reverend Pastors about a Suitable version of the Psalms to be introduced and make report thereof to the Church and Congregation at their adjournment. Voted that this Committee consist of five persons and that Messrs Nathanael Gardner, John Gray, William Blair Townsend, Joseph Russell and Jeremiah Green be said Committee.
1761 Tate and Brady & Watts
The Church took into Consideration the desire of a number of the brethren of the Church and congregation to introduce another version of the Psalms etc. amongst us and after maturely considering the same Voted viz.1st. That the Version commonly called Tate and Brady with such a Supplement of doctor Watt’s Hymns etc. as our Reverend Pastors shall think proper be introduced as Soon as it can conveniently be done. 2nd. That after the said Version is introduced the reading of the Psalms be Omitted. 3dly. That a number of our best Singers
be desired to Sit together in some Convenient place in the meeting House. 4th. That whereas some persons among us may not be able to purchase the said New Version that a Subscription be put forward. Voted that eight Psalm Books be procured for the ministers pews and also four for the fore seat, these last to be put into the deacons care.’
1785 The ‘Refurbished’ Meetinghouse & Billings
The house was ‘remarkably crowded both parts of the day [March 13], and is repaired in a very neat and beautiful manner, and I think equal to any in town, the Old South excepted. The solemnites of the day were opened with an anthem composed by Billings[Lost? or by Aaron Williams?], ‘I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord.’ This was performed by the best masters in town, and, accompanied with the organ which we have introduced into the meeting, is a most delightful piece of musick, and is a very great help in singing. It is pleasing to almost every one of the society, excepting a few who retain their ancient prejudices, and who had rather hear this pleasing part of devotion performed by a small number of screaming voices, without order or decency, than have any tuned instrument as a help, however harmonious and agreable.’ —Joseph Russell, Moderator of the Society of First Church.
1785-1807 John Greenleaf
Blind from the age of ten. Proficient in music as an organist and performer on other musical instruments. The first organist of the Church. His father was a member of the Standing Committee.
1786 Mr William Billings paid
Voted that Mr William Billings be paid Nine pounds in full. [For the anthem, or for preparing the singers for the opening ceremonies of the ‘refurbished’ Church?]
1786 The First Organ
‘Voted that if Mr Frazier relinquishes the Obligation from Mr Barrell respecting the £20, for the organ, [by Jonas Ley of London] this Society will purchase it.’
1789 Sell the Organ?!
‘On a motion of Mr Jame Lamb, seconded by Mr Israel Loring to remove the Organ from the Society by making sale thereof, and after a debate had thereon the motion was negatived 33 against, and only 3 for it.’
1805 First Church Collection of Sacred Musick
Elias Mann, compiler; for the Church Singing Society.
1808-1868 The Fourth Meeting House and Organ in Chauncy Place
An organ rented from Johann Graupner, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Society and cofounder of the Handel and Haydn Society. An organ contracted for in London was prevented from being sent due to ‘Non-intercourse policy’ between nations and North and South.
1808 A Selection of Psalms and Hymns [index]
William Emerson, compiler and editor. This was the first American hymnbook to specify the tune to be sung.
1808 Singing until the new Organ arrives
‘Whereas the Organ now used in this Church is judged too small for the house to which the Society are about to remove — Voted that the standing Committee be authorised to sell the same.’ ‘On Motion that the Standing Committee be authorised to procure a New Organ for the Church in Summer Street [and Chauncy Place] when they shall judge the funds of this Society adequate to that purpose.’
‘Voted that a Committee of Six persons be chosen to conduct the singing of this Society in the New Church to which they are shortly to remove. The following persons were elected: Messrs James Thwing, Samuel M Thayer, James Phillips, Daniel Messenger, James H Foster, Minott Thayer...[and] that a sum not exceeding three hundred dollars per Annum be at the disposal of said Committee to obtain such assistance as they shall think proper, ‘till a New Organ be procured.’
1809 An Organ from England
‘Voted That the Standing Committee be authorized, as soon as may be, to cause to be imported from England a suitable organ for the use and service of First Church.’
‘At a Meeting of the First Church and Congregation in Boston after Divine Service, May 8, 1808: It was proposed to the Society for their consideration, whether they would remove the organ now used in our present meeting House, to their new Meeting House now almost finished....’
1813 A rented Organ from Mr Graupner
Meeting of Standing Committee, at the request of several brethren of the Society, who officiate in the orchestra [Graupner?], respecting the procuring an organ on hire; and the committee accepted the report of Dea. Morrill, James Thwing, Daniel Messinger and James Phillips to hire from Mr. Graupner an organ for the term of one year. And it was agreed to allow him for the same one hundred Dollars, to commence from 27 August. The organ to be placed in the house at the expense of said Graupner: the Society to pay the incidental expenses of preparing the gallery for its reception. [Concerning the delay of the organ ordered from England.]
1815-17(?) Sophia Henrietta Emma Hewitt [Ostinelli]
Daughter of James Hewitt, English Musician, who came to New York in 1792 as leader of the Old American Company. In 1795 he married Eliza King. Sophia was born in 1799. All of the children pursued music. The Hewitts moved to Boston in 1811, where the father was organist at Trinity Church, and was in charge of music at the Federal Street Theatre. Sophia was pianist, organist, singer, and music teacher and gave public performances. Considered the leading professional pianist of Boston, she was soloist with the Apollo Society and then accompanist for the Handel and Haydn Society from 1819 to 1830. She married Paul Louis Ostinelli, a violinist, in 1822. She ended
her career as organist at the First Parish Church of Portland, ME.
1815— The English Organ finally arrives [Cost, $3,000.]
An organ for the First Church was ordered to be made sometime about the year 1810; but from various causes was not received till this time. It arrived in the Ship Restitution from London, June 16, 1816, was received at the Vestry [on the] 19th, and 'first used in public worship June 30, 1816'.
1815 Sacred Musick
‘Selected for the use of The First Church in Boston, with Rudiments of Musick prefixed.’ Three-part hymn settings published for the Church by J T Buckingham.
1816(?)-20 Francesco Masi
Italian organist, in Boston from 1807. Certificate from the ‘Church of St. Peter in Rome.’ Teacher of all instruments. Played an organ concert in Boylston Hall, Boston, 1814. Composer and publisher, jeweler and silversmith. His brother wasa dancing master.
1822-(26?) Eliza Caroline Fish
1822— Organ Repair
Col. Messinger represented that the organ was very much out of repair; that it appears not to have been properly put up, and that, upon consulting an experienced player, he gave it as his opinion that it might be made one of the best in town, many of its tones being entirely lost, or were never brought into action. He stated, that the expense might be about 200 dollars, and moved that a Committee be appointed to employ an experienced organ builder to do all things necessary to make the instrument perfect.
1825(?) Francis (Delacochaire) Mallet
Probably of French origin, in Boston from 1793. Organist, singer, publisher, composer. Sold pianos. Married Church member Charlotte Brooks. Later, he was organist at several Boston Churches.
1825-32 Thomas Trueman Spear
1832-5 Gilbert William Thomas Jones
A native of England, Jones sent the Standing Committee a communication in which he refers to ‘the disadvantages under which I have laboured during the time I have been compared with the advantages received by the organists at other Churches. The encouragement bestowed upon them as teachers of Music...has fully compensated [them] for the small salary received. I have not received the Benefit I anticipated from the Members, not having had one of the numerous families attending [this Church] as a Pupil, I must solicit your kindness and beg of you to make such an increase to my Salary as will at least remunerate me for the services I hope I have render’d to your satisfaction.’ At the following meeting of the Standing Committee, ‘it was Voted unanimously that the Clerk be directed to notify [Mr. Jones] that his services in the Organ Loft will be dispensed with, from and after the first day of July next.’ Mr. Jones continued his career at St Paul’s Cathedral, Boston.
1835(?) —Smith
1839-(?) Charles Zeuner
German-American composer. In Boston from 1830. Organist of the Handel and Haydn Society. Moved to Philadelphia. Published ‘A Musical Manual for Sabbath Schools.’
1842 The Christian Psalter, edited by William P Lunt
Selected as Church hymnal. Supercedes Jeremy Belknap’s Sacred Poetry.
1843-1868 A Thomas Appleton Organ
‘On their return [to the refurbished 1808 Church] the old organ [had been] replaced by a new one which was paid for by subscriptions, and the proceeds arising from the sale of the former [English] instrument.’ [The ‘new’ organ by Thomas Appleton is in the instrument room of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.]
1847(?) Theodore T Barker
1848-(?) Lucien H Southard
Supervisor of public schools 1851-58. Served in the Civil War. Composer of church music, glees, organ pieces and one opera. Teacher, and author of a manual on harmony.
1849-68 David Paine
Composer, tunebook compiler. Uncle of John Knowles Paine.
1858 What to Sing
The attention of the brethren was...called to the use of the Gloria Patri in our Church Service and objection was made to it by several as unsuitable to the worship of a Unitarian Congregation. After conversation upon the character of our Church Music the meeting was dissolved. Rufus Ellis [Pastor].
1868-1968 The Fifth Meeting House in the Back Bay
1869-1968 The new Sanctuary Organ
The new organ [E F Walcker Company, Ludwigsburg, Germany] arrived from Germany. Mr. Otto Cuntz carried on the correspondence with the makers of the instrument. This firm had built the Boston Music Hall organ of 5 divisions, 84 stops, 115 ranks and 6,027 pipes. This organ is now in the Methuen (MA) Memorial Music Hall.
1869 Hymns for the Christian Church  [index]
Rev. Rufus Ellis, compiler. ‘The compiler has endeavored to fulfill the desire of the congregation, as expressed in the vote of the proprietors at the annual meeting. May this volume aid them to make melody in their hearts to the Lord!’
1869-75 Whitney Eugene Thayer
Studied in Germany. Recital organist and composer. Conductor of the Boston Choral Union. Later in New York City as organist.
1875-8 Howard Elmore Parkhurst
Author of A Complete Method for the Modern Organ (1911); The Church Organist (1913).
1878-1910 Arthur (William) Foote
Eminent American composer of songs, choral pieces and major orchestral works. Pianist and Teacher. Member of the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music. Many of his orchestral works were premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Founding member and President of the American Guild of Organists, 1909-12. Annual organ recitals. ‘Quartet-choir.’ (Volunteer singers were added in the 1890s.) Brother of esteemed Minister of King’s Chapel, Unitarian, Henry Wilder Foote.
1895— Hymns for Church and Home
Arthur Foote, Music Editor. Contains 801 Hymn texts, many Unitarian. 400 tunes with chorales and responses for choral service. Became the Church hymnal. Texts by James Freeman Clarke, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wilder Foote, N L Frothingham, Octavius Brooks Frothingham, William Henry Furness, William Channing Gannett, Edward Everett Hale, Frances Ridley Havergal, Frederic Henry Hedge, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Frederick Lucian Hosmer, Mary Howitt, Samuel Johnson, Samuel Longfellow, Caroline Atherton Mason, Andrews Norton, Theodore Parker, Chandler Robbins, Edmund Hamilton Sears, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Jones Very, Henry Ware, Jr, Robert Cassie Waterston and John Greenleaf Whittier.
1903-59 The Gallery Organ
[The gallery organ, built by the Hutchins-Votey Organ Company was the] ‘Gift of Mrs Jacob C Rogers as a memorial to her husband, a long-time member of the Music Committee.’
1910-29 John Patton Marshall
Dean, Boston University School of Music; Dean, Boston Chapter, American Guild of Organists.
1925 The Evans Organ
The organ which Mrs. Robert D Evans had presented to the South Congregational Church in 1915 was removed to the Chancel of the First Church.
1930-58 William E. Zeuch
Sunday afternoon recitalist. Vice-President, Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company; Dean, Boston Chapter, AGO.
1937 Hymns of the Spirit, for use in the ‘Free Churches of America’
Published by Beacon Press for a joint commission of the Unitarian and the Universalist Associations.
1958-60 Melville Smith
President, Longy School of Music, Cambridge.
1960-63 James Anliker, MD
1963-64 Ed Low
1964 Hymns for the Celebration of Life
A hymnbook published by the Beacon Press for the U U A.
1964-97 Leo W Collins
Acted as conducting assistant to Robert Shaw in New York City, where he had a teaching fellowship at Juilliard. He was also a teaching fellow at Boston University where he received his DMA. He was the founder of The Spokane Symphonic Chorale, as well as The Cantata Singers and Ensemble, Music Director, 1964-8. President and founder, U U Musicians Network, 1985-7; Editor, Signature Series [U U anthems, 1983—]. Member, UUA Hymnbook Advisory Committee, ‘Singing the Living Tradition.’ (1993). Organized Hymn Writers Workshop (1988-1997). Provided hymn books for the congregation: Celebrating Christmas in Song, (1987), Spiritual Harmony, (2000), Fifteen New Poems in Song, John Burt, text leader, (2002) An Emerson Garland, (2003). Revived the Singing Society, originally formed in 1785.
Leo Collins was assisted in many capacities by his wife, pianist, Joan Davis Collins.
1966 Mabel Houghton Hand Bells
A gift of a set of Whitechapel hand bells (London, England).
A handbell choir was formed, conducted by Joan Davis Collins, which often played at Sunday services, especially at Christmas and Easter.
1972 Sanctuary and Chapel Organs
Three- and one-manual ‘tracker action’ organs built by Casavant Fréres, Montreal, Canada.
1976-89 ‘First Night’ at First Church   
Presentations given by First Church soloists.
Music of Mozart (New Year's Eve 1983)
Music of Gershwin (New Year's Eve 1988)
1974-78 Organ Recital Series
Monthly concerts jointly sponsored by the Goethe Institute and First Church.
1983 Celebrating Christmas in Song
Leo Collins, Editor, Published UUA.
1997-2005 Brenda Lynne Leach
Graduate Eastman Rochester School of Music. Conductor Boston Chember Orchestra. She has performed extensively in France, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Russia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Ukraine and the USA.Teacher at Harvard Divinity School.
1969-2005 Interim Directors
Lorraine Snowden, Tamara Brooks, Johanna Hill Simpson, Patricia Quintin, Robert Winkley.
1972-2005 Organists
Yuko Hayashi, David Schermer, Victoria Sirota, Barbara Wolff, Harvey Burgett, Thomas Handel, Camilla Jarnot, Gayle Berman, Dianne Close, Rosemary Kean, Mariko Irie, Lee Ridgway.
1993— Singing the Living Tradition
A hymnbook published by the Beacon Press for the UUA.
2006-2017 Paul Cienniwa
Paul's YouTube page
Studied at American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, and received his DMA from Yale. He has been awarded Belgian American Educational Foundation and Fulbright grants. Founder-Conductor, Newport Baroque; Conductor, Boston Opera Collaborative. Harpsichordist, choral conductor and organist including performances with The New Bedford Symphony Orchestra, The Rhode Island Philharmonic, Boston Early Music Festival and Emmanuel Music. Curated an Early Music Thursdays noontime recital series. Introduced an annual fall Hymn Sunday and springtime Music Sunday. Created a Musician-in-Residence Program.
2014-15, Dorian Komanoff Bandy, violin
2015-16, Leo Eguchi, cello
2016-17, Sasha Callahan, violin, Leo Eguchi, cello.
2017 (Spring) First Church Boston Choir
2017-21, Robert August
Educated in the Netherlands and the United States, Robert has an extensive background in organ performance, and a long history of conducting and teaching. He has served as organist and choral conductor at several churches in the United States and Europe and as Carillonneur at Brigham Young University. He has performed in Europe and the United States as a solo artist and accompanist, including tours and recordings with the Harvard University Choir, the Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra, the Texas Boys Choir, the Texas Camerata, and guest appearances with the Fort Worth Symphony. While pursuing his doctoral degree at the New England Conservatory of Music, he served as Organ Scholar, and later as Assistant University Organist and Choirmaster at The Memorial Church at Harvard University. From 2000-2002 he also served as Music Tutor at Harvard’s Dunster House. In 2010 his doctoral thesis, An Old Look at Schumann’s Organ Works, was published in the United States and Europe, celebrating the composer’s 200th birthday. Robert frequently serves as adjudicator for choral and organ competitions. He often concertizes with his wife, Dolores, performing a variety of music from early to modern, including organ, piano, harpsichord, flute, piccolo and baroque flute.
2019 Rejoice in the Lamb, Britten. For "Music Sunday" April 7, Robert August, organ, Daniel Ryan choral direction, Christine Teeters, soprano, Marilyn Oliver, alto, Ethan Bremmer, tenor, James Liu, bass and First Church Boston Choir with members of the congregation.
2021- , Gigi Mitchell-Velasco
Bachelor of Music in Flute, Curtis Institute of Music, Master of Music in Organ Performance, Boston University College of Fine Arts, Fellow, Conductor’s Institute of South Carolina, Fellow, Summer Conducting Seminar, Baltimore Chamber Orchestra MD. Dean, Rhode Island Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. As a Mezzo-Sopraon: Gigi Mitchell-Velasco is among international artists of the world’s opera and concert stages. With a voice ideally suited to the German romantic repertoire, she has been praised by the critics, colleagues and public alike for her interpretations of Mahler, Strauss and Wagner. Her Brangaene in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde “is world-class in every aspect. She has performed with such conductors as Michael Tilson Thomas, Helmut Rilling, Jaap van Zweden, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Hans Graf, Andrew Litton, Sarah Caldwell, Dimitrij Kitaenko, Eiji Oue, Andreas Delfs, Jahja Ling, Eve Queler, Yoav Talmi, Joseph Rescigno, David Stahl, Gisèle Ben-Dor, Richard Buckley, Michael Christie, Andrew Clark, Thomas Conlin, Grant Cooper, John Daly Goodwin, Daniel Hege, Scott Allen Jarrett, Fabio Mechetti, Robert Page, Vjekoslav Sutej, Julian Wachner, Antony Walker and Benjamin Zander, in Carnegie Hall and Weill Hall, Boston’s Symphony Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Kennedy Center, Vienna’s Konzert-Haus, Prague’s Dvorak and Smetana Halls, with the symphony orchestras of Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Florida, San Diego, Quebec, Charleston, West Virginia, Syracuse, Honolulu, San Jose, Calgary, Prague Radio, Boston Philharmonic, Ural State Philharmonic, Martinú Philharmonic, the opera companies of Boston, Houston, Minnesota, Brauschweig (Germany), Prague, Florentine, Toledo, Providence, Opera Orchestra of New York, Washington Concert Opera, the music festivals of Newport, Wolf Trap, Prague Autumn, Grant Park, Colorado and Snowshoe, the choruses of New York, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia, Providence and Westerly, and the Aurea Ensemble.